69 Views

The price of justice

Last week’s issue of the Badger was greatly enriched by the inclusion of a thought-provoking feature by Sam Waterman and Ralph Kellas on the increased marketisation of higher education (‘What’s happening to our universities’, 24.01.2011).

The piece highlighted the shift in political thought towards an increasingly singular view of society centred on the free market.Unfortunately, education is far from the only institution assaulted under the auspices of ‘efficiency’; legal aid has also been substantially undermined.

Since 1946 legal aid has been the primary guarantor of access to justice in the UK, providing funds for legal representation to those who could not otherwise afford it. Introduced by Clement Attlee’s government in 1946 it was regarded as a pillar of the welfare state of equal importance to the NHS. Legal aid’s premise is that true democracy predicates the real legal equality of persons, requiring equal access to the law.

The history of the erosion of legal aid’s founding principles will be depressingly familiar for those who read last week’s feature. The Thatcher administration ushered in significant cuts before the last Labour government fundamentally changed the way in which access to justice was treated.

The Access to Justice Act 1999 introduced competitive tendering for legal aid, the first major intrusion of the free market, this is widely considered to have triggered a ‘race to the bottom’ lowering the standard of legal aid work and thus exacerbating the disparity between rich and poor in their chances of succeeding at court.

However, once again it has been the present government who have launched the most withering attack upon access to justice’s founding principles.

You can be forgiven for barely noticing the 15 percent legal aid cuts announced in November, few envisage themselves needing its assistance and protests were distinctly muted. Perhaps, this is what led the government to make its most audacious claim; reducing legal aid would be ‘fairer’.

The Daily Mail, ever the champion of progressive social policy, attacked the fat cat lawyers taking millions from the state. The fact that the average legal aid lawyer’s wage is less than the average teacher’s seemed to be unnoticed. The irony that leading the charge was Kenneth Clarke, a wealthy Cambridge-educated barrister, seemed lost. Once again, the real victims were the poor.

The cuts saw the total removal of funding for employment, education and professional negligence claims and crippling cuts in private family, welfare and immigration cases. This ‘fairer’ system will see the families of those who died due to medical negligence or workers wishing to challenge unfair dismissals unable to get funding.

The government are very aware of the unjust nature of their reforms.

The government green paper said that cuts in claims against benefit decisions would disproportionately affect the ill and disabled – it was still scrapped. Let us hope that the new legions of disadvantaged appreciate that their misfortune is in the name of fairness.

If one discounts the spurious claim that the justice gap will be plugged by lawyers working for free, this once again leaves the free market as the arbitrator of societal rights this time in the form of ‘no win, no fee’ law firms.

The implications of this may not be immediately obvious, but they are extremely serious. Legal aid firms normally demand an over 60 percent chance of success to take on a case.
Thus, whether justice is sought for the poor will be substantially dictated by the commercial calculations of law firms. This presents two major problems.

First, claims against financially powerful interests are essential for maintaining true legal equality; however they remain poor prospects for risk-adverse, financially-motivated, lawyers. Second, challenges based on ambiguities and uncertainties in the law are indispensible in its wider development and public awareness of its deficiencies.

However, they also remain risky and labour-intensive work holding little appeal for the private sector. The decline of legal aid is indicative of the nefarious impact of increased ‘marketisation’ on our social institutions. Access to justice is being gradually transformed from an inalienable civil-political right into an economic privilege available to those who can afford it.

Precluding a segment of society from equal access to the courts, an entire branch of government, carries grave repercussions for the rule of law and democratic values in the UK.

The fact that the cuts were supposedly made to pay for the mistakes of the rich only compounds the injustice.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
707 views1
Campus News
707 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
157 views
Arts
157 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
180 views
Arts
180 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
173 views
Arts
173 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
213 views
Arts
213 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
217 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
213 views
Arts
213 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
204 views
Arts
204 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
327 views
Campus News
327 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
164 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
444 views
Arts
444 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
204 views
Arts
204 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
302 views
Artist Focus
302 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
211 views
Interview
211 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
286 views
Arts
286 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
325 views
Arts
325 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
363 views
Arts
363 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
263 views
Artist Focus
263 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
276 views
Books
276 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
354 views
Science
354 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
333 views
News
333 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…